As you will probably be aware, Chelsea broke Barcelona-forward Pedro’s buy-out clause last week, and he has now signed for the London club. This meant luring him away from Old Trafford, after the Spaniard had been linked heavily with Manchester United since the start of the transfer window.
Pedro displayed his quality as he registered a goal and an assist on his debut wearing the blue shirt. Although Manchester United claim that they had lost interest in the player, I find this hard to believe, since the cost for a player who has been an integral part at a Barcelona side (who has arguably been the strongest in European Football of this generation) stands at just £21 million.
What exactly is it that Pedro would have brought to Van Gaal’s side?
Pedro has consistently managed an impressive goals return at his many years for the Catalan club. It’s these goals from midfield that can often make a huge difference over the course of the season, new signing Memphis Depay is likely to make a strong contribution, but a variety of sources that can register their names on the scoresheet is important. This will allow the side to know a couple of man-marking jobs cannot sufficiently reduce the attacking prowess the Red Devils possess. The World Cup winner links up with other forwards, he gets behind defences using his pace, which allows more space for the more central players to take shots and spray passes.
Tactically having Pedro playing on the right hand side of the three attacking midfielders in Van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1 would have allowed Mata to come inside to a more central role. But since Wayne Rooney fits into to more of the ‘false nine’ role when leading the line by himself, having Memphis and Pedro out wide who could into the centre forward role when Rooney drops deep would greatly improve attacking fluidity, which is a key trait for top sides in the modern game.
Who Should Manchester United look to as alternative signings for the Spaniard?
Manchester United have been linked with some big names this summer; Muller, Bale and more recently Neymar all come under this category. However I find it hard to call these alternatives to Pedro. For one, all these players would sign at a near record-breaking fee and Pedro was relatively cheap for a player of his calibre, playing in the position he does. Also, these kind of signings are rare. And therefore, it is hard for me to say that United should sign one of the top attacking players in Europe, since more often than not, this is near-enough impossible. Another player that fans have said they would like to see put on the red shirt next season is Marco Reus. Unfortunately for United fans I again find this doubtful as the German signed a five-year contract extension, signalling for the foreseeable future the footballer will reside in Dortmund.
The above Squawka comparison matrix shows four potential players that could be brought in to Old Trafford as alternatives to Pedro.
Juan Cuadrado *
With one winger coming into Stamford Bridge, it is thought that another will have to exit in order to make way for the newcomer, and it is thought that man is Juan Cuadrado. Cuadrado only signed for The Blues in the January transfer window last season, however after failing to impress over the last eight months, it is likely Mourinho will let him go. Although Manchester United fans may not like the sound of bringing in Chelsea’s rejects, I believe that Cuadrado is not a player who should be overlooked. Over his time at Fiorentina, followed with spectacular performances for Colombia in the World Cup, Cuadrado was though as one of the best up-and-coming players in world football. If given a run in with the starting line up, it’s possible the flying-winger could rediscover old form and shine in the red of United.
Southampton have confirmed that Manchester United have shown interest in the Senegalese. Southampton have also said that the player is not for sale. But if the fee was large enough, I’m sure The Saints could be swayed by the money. For me, Mane would be an excellent capture for the club, he’s proven he can play in the Premier League, he scores goals and he will offer fluid movement, getting between lines and pushing forward in the frontline when the time is right. Another statistic which should not be ignored is his tackles per game. Winning the ball in the opposition’s third leads to goals being scored at a high ratio, and is probably the most overlooked skill in attacking players. Manchester United fans may not see Mane as a big enough name for the club, but I firmly believe that if Van Gaal could sway him from St Mary’s they would be pleasantly surprised.
Julian Draxler is the least prolific player on the shortlist in terms of goals scored. Although his scoring record is not an adequate reflection of his ability. At just 21 years of age the Schalke prospect could fill attacking midfield roles for many years at Old Trafford. As the Draxler’s potential develops into the player’s ability, it is likely the rate that the German starts hitting the back of the net on a regular basis. Draxler beats more completes more take on per game than any other player on the shortlist, this is due to his ferocious pace and intricate ball control. He is one of the most exciting young players in football at the moment and should definitely be considered by Van Gaal as he looks for a fresh winger to bring into the side.
The final player listed in the comparison matrix is french-man Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann has scored more goals per game than any other player on the list, however, it should be noted that this is partly due to him playing in a more central role since leaving Real Sociedad for Atletico Madrid. Griezmann is very clinical, and if Van Gaal is predominantly looking for goals, then the French international is probably his man.
Despite signs that Manchester United have been looking for a new wide player, with reported bids being rejected for the likes of Muller and Mane. Some Devil’s fans claim they have enough with Memphis, Januzaj, Mata, Young and others. However, the star quality declines relatively quickly after venturing deeper into the squad past those four players. Even if you do believe those players are of a sufficient standard to push for the Premier League title, with mid-week games in the Premier and Champions League, I believe it’s a necessity that due to the effects injury and fatigue will have on the side, that another truly quality attacking player is brought in before the end of the window.
* Update 25 August 2015: Since this piece was published Juan Cuadrado has completed a season-long loan move to Juventus.
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